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Net Neutrality

The U.S. Needs Network Reality Policy

In 2003, Professor Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality.”

Fifteen years later, it’s now time for a network reality check. That’s because net neutrality is back in the news with a quixotic Senate vote that proposes what a majority of the House and the FCC, and the President all oppose, all while rejecting real legislative proposals to enshrine net neutrality consumer protections permanently into law.   

How is network reality today different from 2003?

When net neutrality was conceived in 2003, Amazon was a company with ~$5b in revenues, Google just started generating revenues, and Facebook didn’t exist. Now America’s largest network company by annualized revenues is Amazon at $193b, not AT&T, at $160b.

The annualized revenues of the three largest edge-networks, Amazon, Google, and Facebook will likely surpass the collective revenues of the three largest ISP networks, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, sometime this fall.

If current revenue growth rates continue, expect Amazon, Google, and Facebook’s collective revenues to be twice that of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast in less than three years.

That is network reality.

US Internet Policy’s Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability - DOJ Filing

Note: this post summarizes a Precursor LLC presentation filing for the record of the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division’s 3-14-18 Roundtable on Antitrust Exemptions & Immunities. See the presentation/filing here.

Presentation Title:

“A Market Divided: U.S. Internet Policy Creates Anticompetitive Asymmetric Accountability.”
Government exemptions and immunities overwhelmingly favor regulatory arbitrage over free market competition. Accountability arbitrage harms: consumer welfare; free market forces; the process of competition; and economic growth.

Executive Summary:

Unregulated Google Facebook Amazon Want Their Competitors Utility Regulated

Americans believe in equal accountability, that no one should be above rules or outside the law.

Then why are America’s only unaccountable network monopolies, Alphabet-Google, Facebook, and Amazon, calling for maximal accountability of utility-grade, network-neutrality regulation for their ISP competitors, but no accountability for their own apparent utility-like, monopoly distribution networks?

America Needs a Consumer-First Internet Policy, Not Tech-First

Internet users are the forgotten consumers.  

They have been forgotten for over twenty years because America’s Internet policy has been tech-first-consumer-last. 

Hiding in plain sight, U.S. Internet policy prioritizes what’s best for technologies and Internet companies over what’s best for people, because at core it assumed in 1996 and 1998 that whatever is good for Internet technologies and companies is good for Internet consumers.

For many years that appeared to be largely true. However, the cascading revelations this past year -- big societal, economic, and political problems caused by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. -- prove that core U.S. Internet policy assumption false.

Let’s contrast the Government’s protection of Internet companies with its protection of Internet consumers.

Ad Hoc Neutrality Isn’t Neutral, It Is Discriminatory and Unfair

 

For a neutrality or non-discrimination principle to have legitimacy, it must be applied neutrally and non-discriminatorily itself, because everyone knows true neutrality means not taking sides.

Non-neutral application of a net neutrality policy takes sides and thus is discriminatory and unfair, the exact opposite of net neutrality’s purported purpose and the definition of its signature word.

Arguably, most all the controversies and conflicts over net neutrality for the last fifteen years have resulted from a supposed neutrality principle applied non-neutrally, to favor Internet intermediary distribution networks like Google, Amazon and Facebook, and cloud computing networks, like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, over legacy communications and content networks.

Today the FCC, in voting 3-2 for the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, is legitimately implementing net neutrality in a neutral fashion, i.e. treating similar information services similarly with the same light touch, under the same market transparency enforcement oversight at the FTC, and not taking sides by non-neutrally, picking winners and losers from the start.

Net Neutrality’s Masters of Misdirection

On net neutrality, we have all been tricked by the masters of misdirection.

For many years Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the Internet Association have deftly misdirected the media’s and government’s attention away from their unaccountable market power, discriminatory models and practices, and real consumer protection problems, towards the potential for discrimination by legacy-regulated, competitive, broadband providers.

The masterful misdirection becomes painfully obvious when one looks at the facts.

First, it’s the supposedly “competitive” Internet “edge” that is hyper-dominant and hyper-concentrated, and it is America’s broadband industry that is the most competitive in the world.

Asymmetric Absurdity in Communications Law & Regulation

You can’t make this stuff up.

Asymmetric Realities: The five most valuable companies – Apple $802b, Alphabet-Google $688b, Microsoft $585b, Facebook $500b, and Amazon $475b – are together worth an unprecedented $3 trillion and widely-appreciated to be dominant in the communications-driven businesses of smartphones, search advertising, subscription business productivity software, social advertising, and ecommerce platform services respectively.

In Washington’s theater of the absurd, these well-known, winner-take-all platforms, are playing the role of victims of potential harms, that supposedly can’t afford to shoulder the potential risks for the potential net neutrality problems that they allege are potentially serious, when they produce $131b annually in free cash flow and have $357b in cash (mostly overseas).

Online-Offline Asymmetric Regulation Is Winner-Take-All Government Policy

Online-offline asymmetric regulation is the biggest persistent competition problem in the economy for the next decade. 

Asymmetric commercial treatment by the Government predictably produces asymmetric market outcomes. Everyone knows how an unfair playing field or unfair rules of the game produce favored winners and disfavored losers.

Internet myth is that Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and their “intermedia” Internet Association brethren deserve to be winner-take-all because they are more innovative and better for consumers than offline companies.

The reality is that these companies common “winner-take-all special sauce” is old-fashioned regulatory arbitrage, of its special Section 230 intermediary immunity from liability, regulation, and accountability.

To date, the intermedia’s decade-long, bankrolling and public leadership of the Title II net neutrality regulation of broadband effort, has been a spectacularly effective diversion of public and government attention from the intermedia’s regulatory arbitrage of their winner-take-all, asymmetric regulation advantages.

iHypocrisy: Non-Neutral, Non-Free, Non-Open Apple Is Now for Net Neutrality

iHypocrisy?

After fourteen years of diligently dodging any public position on net neutrality on principle, while operating the largest non-neutral, non-free, non-open, Internet network of smart devices on the planet, Apple Inc. is now taking a “principled” public position for net neutrality, and a free and open Internet, because Apple now tells the FCC in its net neutrality public comments that Apple now believes in the principles of consumer choice, no paid fast lanes, transparency, competition, investment, and innovation. iHypocrisy.

Let me be crystal clear here.

I am a longtime iPhone user and big Apple fan. I have long publicly defended their freedom to maximize the value of their patented innovations and property-rights driven business model and value creation strategy. I strongly defend their right to free speech and their right to reverse their “principled” position when their business needs warrant it, like wanting to save money on bandwidth for Apple’s new streaming services because it is losing money on streaming now that it invested a billion dollars in new video content over the last few months.

Debunking Edge Competition Myth Predicate in FCC Title II Broadband Order – FCC Comments

SUMMARY:

In 2015, the FCC’s Title II Open Internet broadband order was predicated on a demonstrably false central competitive premise: that the Internet’s edge was competitive while the broadband Internet core was not competitive. The facts prove the opposite.

The 2015 FCC’s competition premise is myth.

While there is plenty of information in the record, and in the July 17 comments, that broadband is  competitive, until now there has been little data and research on the overall competitiveness of the Internet edge providers, save for NetCompetition’s July 17th comments that showed how concentrated the Internet edge is using the Internet Association as a proxy.

To further rebut comments that were predicated on the demonstrably false central premise that the Internet’s edge is competitive, NetCompetition submits additional Internet competition research below.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths